FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A man allegedly caught with $230,000 worth of fentanyl and $12,000 worth of heroin was arrested Tuesday in Fresno County by narcotics detectives with the Special Investigations Task Force – then released a few hours later, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
Officials say the suspect, identified as 23-year-old Pedro Miranda-Muro, would have ordinarily had his bail set at $225,000 following the arrest – but the suspect qualified for Fresno County’s Zero-Dollar Emergency Bail Rule, so he was released on bail for $0.
The decision to release prompted a change in policy by officials with Fresno County’s judicial system, announcing on Wednesday that the zero-dollar bail rule was no longer in effect.
The zero-dollar emergency bail rule was first set up by the State of California during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 for jails up and down the state. It was meant to limit the number of people in jails and avoid overcrowding. Inmates would be let out early with court dates so they could come back at a later time.
According to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, California’s emergency zero-dollar bail rule expired in mid-2020, but judges in Fresno County decided to extend the rule for Fresno County. The rule was then kept in place since then by the prior and presiding judges in at the Superior Court of Fresno County. Other parts of the state, such as Los Angeles County, ended its zero-dollar bail rule in the summer of 2022.
Fresno County’s rule officially ended on January 4, one day after the arrest of 23-year-old Pedro Miranda-Muro with 11 pounds of pure fentanyl. The story of his release on zero-dollar bail aired on both CBS47 and KSEE24.
Officials say getting arrested multiple times would disqualify offenders from the rule, but a first-time offense can use the rule as a “get out of jail for free card.” This is the case with Miranda-Muro, who coming from Los Angeles, is his first time entering the Fresno County Jail system. He was eligible for zero-dollar bail as his charges were not on the list to be able to be held accountable.
Tony Botti, with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, says it can be frustrating for officers on a daily basis to see someone they arrest seen released a short time later.
“Your just going to have your moral go through the floor, if all your thinking about when you make an arrest is that person is going to get out. You go out you do your best you arrest them you put them in jail and it goes from there. You’re not in control of what the law says and what this person is eligible to have. Our job basically is to hook them and book them.”-Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office
In a now-deleted Twitter post, Chief Paco Balderrama of the Fresno Police Department also shared his frustration regarding this release.
“Completely unacceptable! Fresno Sheriff’s Office makes a great bust, confiscates enough fentanyl to wipeout most of Fresno, and trafficker gets zero-dollar bail! The community should be outraged. The overdoes crisis in America will not get any better until consequences return”-Paco Balderrama, Fresno Chief of Police
In the emergency bail schedule notice officially rescinding the zero-dollar bail order, it notes that “a majority of the judges of the Fresno Superior Court” made the collective decision to lift the order.